dust, not feathers — intro



٨ This is a strange place. Where he used to live with his grandfather could be loud and dense with twolegs, strange cats, dogs, and smells. By comparison, RiverClan is quiet and warm with less to make Mandrake's nose wrinkle, but that doesn't make it any less bizarre. Still, he's not ungrateful to Beesong; he knows he couldn't have stayed beside his grandfather's grave, surrounded by other mounds of strangers laid to their final rest. He also doesn't want to seem ungrateful even accidentally to the scarred cat with a kind face, so he's trying to...adjust more quickly.

It's nothing he wouldn't do with his grandfather when they would move on, investigating every inch of a new alleyway until it became familiar. Mandrake pokes around the camp, inspecting the strangely shaped, ribbed stones of various colors decorating the dens. Near the place that smells of milk and kittens, he cautiously dips a paw into the river and tries not to flinch. It's when he's prodding a gnarled root of the big tree that he loses his footing with a sharp gasp and a flail of limbs.

A bright, hot hurt throbs in his paw, and when he sits up, there's blood staining pinkened obsidian skin. Ducking his head, Mandrake rubs his eyes against his foreleg and grits his teeth to fend off the tears. Rather than bother one of the RiverClan cats, he beats a hasty retreat back to the nursery area, where he shoves his paw back in the water.

His throat works around a lump, but he still doesn't cry.
// @BUCKGAIT. obligatory tagging of his cat on a leash

Lightningstone, Buckgait, and a couple other warriors are just returning from a quick hunting trip as they enter camp, the tom making sure to keep a firm eye on his assignment's flank at all times. He's aware how feisty she is, and he isn't willing to display his incompetence by letting her slip away. He quickens his stride in an attempt to steer her, giving her a wordless look as a pair of shrews fill his mouth and gestures with his nose towards the nursery. These catches are for the nursery, not the fresh-kill pile, He means to say. They draw closer to the den, and that's when the silvery tom notices a kit just outside, with a paw in the shallow water. Raising a brow, he changes course and comes to a stop by the boy, dropping his catches. "Shrew?" He asks, blinking down at him. He hasn't noticed that the child is on the verge of tears yet.
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riverclan warrior. 32 moons. tags

"Lightningstone, he's hurt," Clearsight says, certain and calm. He tries not to come off as scolding, because that wouldn't be his place, but the younger tom's callousness irks him—especially as red tendrils of blood stain the water around the baby's paw.

His own catch left at the fresh-kill pile (the hunting trip had been pleasantly successful), Clearsight steps closer to the child—careful not to crowd—and lowers himself to Mandrake's level. If the frightened little thing is hiding his injury, then looming over him won't help.

"Hello little one," he murmurs. He waits to see if the boy will meet his eyes, every movement slow and gentle.

"It looks like your paw's a little hurt. That's alright—we can help take care of that so it feels better." He knows that the child is new, and that he didn't come from somewhere kind; that the only gentleness he ever knew is dead and buried now. Of course he'd be afraid...

Clearsight glances at one of the other patrol members and says quietly, "Would you mind fetching Beesong? If they're busy that's alright, just ask him for some cobwebs."

He'd like to ask Lightningstone instead, because the explosive tom isn't exactly well-suited to soothing a tearstricken kit, and only doesn't because he knows Lightning needs to keep his eye on Buckgait.


//ic opinions </3
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She misses nothing, eyes constantly moving and sharply observant. The poor black and white tom with the hurt paw makes his way to the nursery with pained, jerky movements, and fresh tears are glazing his eyes. The tortoiseshell stares, wondering how he'd hurt the flesh on his pad. "Step on something sharp?" She mews. "If you rinse it in water, it'll stop bleeding."

She isn't sure if that's true. Maybe the blood will attract big, scary fish that eat cats. She doesn't offer this opinion, though. Clearsight tells her to go get Beesong and she shrugs. "Okay, but I think if he leaves it in the water it'll be okay." While Iciclepaw's voice is not callous, it is curiously flat, but she dips her head to the young cat before padding in the medicine cat den's direction.


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"Hello, earthen child," their voice comes as a small coo as they make their way over to the group with a kinked tail. "Little piranha got your foot?" she teases lightly, everyone elses voices being drowned out like rushing water. She studies the paw, the way blood wafts in to the water and she hums. He remembers being young like this, where he'd silently retreat to the water when he got hurt. Though, thankfully, this was not saltwater, so the sting of the wound would be less.

"No need to get dear Rosemary, loverboy." another soft tease as he turns his head, a purr rumbling in her throat. "Little earth child is doing just fine managing the pain," they flick their tail. "How strong, you're gonna be a fine apprentice dearest." she praises the kid with a light nod of his head.
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Regardless of Coast's tease, Beesong is quick to Mandrake's side with brows furrowed and paws restless with agitation. Crimson stains the water around the child's paw, and a protective flame kindles in an aqua gaze. "No, always come and get me when someone's injured," he corrects Coast abruptly, his tail tip twitching with the thought of not being there when one was injured... Especially Mandrake, who the medicine cat has quickly become fond of since finding him at Fourtrees, all alone.

They hum in a semblance of relief when they note that there does not seem to be an alarming amount of blood floating in the river... Still, they crouch down to eye level with Mandrake- although they did not have far to go in that regard- and murmurs, "Here, let me see." They would only be satisfied once they've assessed the damage. "You did well, rinsing it in the river." It saves Beesong an extra step in the treatment.
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Lightningstone's gaze is quick to shift to Clearsight, a twinge of confusion in his expression. He turns back to the kit and only then notices the red tint to the water surrounding the paw. Oh. He hadn't noticed. Several cats swiftly crowd him and the child, and so he thinks it best to get out of there. He lowers his head to grab one of the shrews, leaving the other for Mandrake before moving towards the nursery to deliver the catch to the others within.
٨ He stares up at the unfamiliar RiverClanner and then at the dead little creature he offers him, which he calls a shrew. He must not have noticed Mandrake's paw, or maybe he has decided to be courteous and overlook the wet sheen in his eyes. He doesn't move from the water in case it's the former; he came here to avoid troubling any of them, to avoid being even more of a leech. "I've never eaten a shrew," he says slowly, and he means to ask what it tastes like, but another voice —slightly chastising— clicks his mouth shut.

This RiverClanner makes himself smaller to meet Mandrake's eyes, and every intentional shift of his body language is clearly born of kindness. "It's just a little scratch," he tells him awkwardly, swallowing and blinking hard. He knows he can't do what the adults do yet, that he can't hunt like they do, and even though this long-furred stranger is looking at him with gentle eyes, he knows he has a debt to pay. To all of them, and Beesong especially, which is why he shakes his head when the tom asks another RiverClanner to find him.

"No, it– it doesn't even hurt, see?" He pulls his paw from the water and the cool air stings, and Mandrake can't hide the pained scowl. It's too late for him, anyway; a young cat acquiesces to Clearsight's request, and he hangs his head low.

He doesn't know whether the next cat is mocking him or not. Little earth child, she names him, and then says he's strong, that he'll be a worthy apprentice. His ears perk up and he meets their eyes, or at least tries to— they're so much taller than him that it'd hurt his neck to do it. Do they really believe that? A determined warmth unfolds in his chest, and he straightens up, almost forgetting the throbbing in his pawpad.

At least until Beesong arrives, swooping in protectively, and this, too, makes him feel warm, but a little ashamed. He's done so much for Mandrake already, has been so kind, and despite his reluctance to add more weight to their shoulders, he extends his paw toward them. He praises Mandrake and his ears grow hot even as his pride rears its head again. He'd only meant to wash off the blood in hopes of hiding it from the others. Look how well that ended for him. "It doesn't hurt," he insists again, and maybe if he keeps saying it he'll be right. "You don't have to...do anything to it. It'll go away." Said with the confidence of a child who doesn't really know very much.